Denver City Council members decide to divvy up question on bond money for National Western Center projects

It’s part of the $450 million bond package proposed by Mayor Michael Hancock’s administration.
3 min. read
A rendering of the future, revamped National Western Center. (Source: Mayor’s Office of the National Western Center)

Denver City Council members on Tuesday approved sending a $450 million bond package to the full city council for consideration, but only after making a pretty significant change to how the question will be presented to voters.

Among the projects that would be paid for by the municipal bond package would be two National Western Center projects: a new arena ($160 million) and the renovation of the 1909 Stadium Building ($30 million). They were both supposed to appear on a single ballot question requesting money for numerous other Denver facilities.

In order to give voters a chance to decide on these two projects, instead of lumping them into a single question asking for money for other projects like new libraries and ADA improvements, council members voted to move the ballot questions forward without these two National Western Center projects.

There were originally four ballot questions that all together outlined how the $450 million would be spent.

But paying for these two projects with borrowed money has been a source of concern for council members and some people who live in Elyria Swansea, where the National Western Center is being built. There are concerns about whether people who live nearby were able to provide enough feedback on how they wanted bond money to be spent and whether those same people would benefit from the project, who want things like housing and access to health care.

Zach Rothmier, a senior legislative analyst, said the council now intends to direct file another ballot question that would only contain those two projects so they can still appear on the ballot. That means they will be introduced directly during a full city council meeting, instead of the usual process of going through a committee.

The vote by the committee on Tuesday was 4-3 to make this change. Only committee members voted, plus Council President Stacie Gilmore. Councilmembers Jolon Clark, Candi CdeBaca, Chris Hinds and Robin Kniech voted in favor of the change. Councilmembers Kendra Black, Debbie Ortega and Gilmore voted no.

The proposal will now be considered by all 13 Denver City Council members, who are on a bit of a time crunch. They need to decide by the end of the month whether to send the proposed package to Denver voters, before the deadline to get things on the ballot.

If the full council approves the bond package, voters would see questions about it on their ballots in November.

It will mean five different ballot questions, each one for a set of projects.

Here's the timeline:

  • Aug. 10: The proposal will be discussed at the mayor-council meeting, which is basically a public conversation between the council and Mayor Michael Hancock on what city lawmakers are doing.
  • Aug. 16: The proposal will be on what's called "first reading" at the full City Council, meaning it's on their to-do list, but it won't be decided that night. Council members may decide to offer a comment or two.
  • Aug. 23: This is when the council will make a final decision on the proposal. Their decision will basically be whether to send these measures to the ballot (called a referred measure). Expect some discussion about it at council before council members decide.
  • Aug. 30: The deadline for submitting measures to the ballot.

If voters approve the spending this fall, the city would start issuing bonds next spring.

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